Positioned between Japan to the south and China to the north, throughout Korean history the country has overcome waves of invaders looking to control its resources. These days South Korea’s only invasion is from tourists. And they come for a good reason, as the cultural resources on offer are rich and plentiful.
Korean History: An Introduction in 7 places
The keys to any culture can be found in its history. So we selected seven historically significant destinations in and around Seoul to help us unlock Korea’s secrets. Join us as we explore Korean history and culture.
1 Gyeongbokgung Palace
One of the most iconic sights in all of Korea is Seoul’s legendary Gyeongbokgung Palace. Built in 1394 by the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, King Taejo, it forms the heart of Seoul and is situated in the foreground of Mount Bugaksan one of Korea’s seven sacred mountains. Its name means “Palace greatly blessed by Heaven”, which was given by an influential government minister of the time, Jeong Do-Joon.
The palace saw continuous expansion during the reign of King Taejong and King Sejong the Great. Severely damaged by fire in 1553, the reigning monarch, King Myeongjong, aggressively repaired the damage, completing work the following year. Decades later, the Palace was again burnt to the ground as a result of Japanese invasions starting in 1592, and the royal court was moved to the nearby Changdeokgung Palace. The destruction continued during the next wave of Japanese invasions starting in 1910, resulting in the ransacking and looting of much of the interior features that remained. Finally, in 1989 the Korean government started a 40-year project to rebuild the hundreds of structures that were destroyed during the Japanese invasions.